The Associated Press

Wed, Sep 17, 2008 (6:33 p.m.)

A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a jury verdict against two former police detectives who were convicted of moonlighting as gangsters and carrying out a series of hits for the mob.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa can be sentenced on a racketeering conspiracy conviction that was tossed out by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn.

Weinstein had said the conspiracy did not continue past a five-year statute of limitations, but the three-judge appeals panel disagreed.

A conspiracy to provide services to members and associates of organized crime continued well past the point in March 2000 when charges otherwise would have had to be filed, the appeals court said. Many of the worst crimes occurred between 1986 and 1990.

In April 2006, a jury in Brooklyn concluded that the so-called Mafia Cops were responsible for eight murders, kidnapping and other crimes. It agreed with the government that the pair led double lives, working for the New York Police Department and Luchese crime family underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.

The trial laid bare one of the worst cases of corruption in the NYPD’s history. Prosecutors said they were paid $65,000 for the slaying of a mobster during a phony traffic stop while providing Casso inside information about law enforcement investigations of the mob, among other misdeeds.

U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell said the ruling pleased him. Telephone messages left Wednesday with lawyers for Eppolito, 60, and Caracappa, 66, were not returned.

Eppolito, whose father was a member of the Gambino crime family, retired from the NYPD in 1990. He played a bit part in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob drama “GoodFellas” and launched an unsuccessful career as a screenwriter.

Caracappa retired in 1992 after establishing the police department’s unit for mob murder investigations.

Weinstein had refused to grant bail to the men and had ordered them to stand trial on drug and money laundering charges if his decision to toss out the conspiracy charge was upheld.

He has called them “dangerous criminals with no degree of credibility” and said the crimes they were accused of were “probably the most heinous series of crimes ever tried in this courthouse.”.